Professor Richard Barke
April 19, 2005
The United States as a Model for Progress
Throughout human history there has been much progress already. We began as nothing more than hunters and gatherers scavenging for what ever food we could find. Organization then became important as humans found that hunting in groups led to more food per person. Still more food per person was able to be captured with the invention of the spear; more people survived when fire was invented to cook the food. This is a mere snapshot of progress in human history. While we, for the most part, don’t have to worry about such primitive difficulties today, progress is still important. There is no such thing as a “perfect” human state where no more progress is needed. Today progress is made in such fields as medicine, and government is extremely important in certain cases. And for the last 200 years the United States of America has been leading the charge of progression. Therefore the rest of the world should use the US as a model for progression in politics, morality, and society.
First of all, what is progress exactly? We all know “what” it is but nevertheless it is difficult to define. The textbook definition of progress is “advance to a higher or better state (Webster’s).” This is a good start but I think a “better state” can be made less vague. A better state is where more people are overall happier then they were in the previous state. Thus progress is measured by the number of happy people there are and the extent to which they are happy. Finally for progress to take place we as a society must do the “right” things. When a group of two or more people rob a single pedestrian a higher number of people are happy but most people would agree that this surely no an example of progress. Right can mean different things to different people so I’ll leave it up the individual to decide what exactly “right” is. In conclusion progress is the advancement to a better state where a better state is the place where more people are happy and those people are doing the “right” things.
Much of the progress of America has come because of the free enterprise system. This lets people be free to do what they want to do with their lives. This is the main example of Adam Smith’s invisible hand idea. People are trying to help themselves but as a result end up helping society. For example, the invention of the Cotton Gin by Eli Whitney was an invention to make harvesting cotton easier. He wanted to make his own harvesting easier and cheaper but he also made it easier on the hand of the former cotton pickers. The business environment in the US also makes it more expectable to try different things and experiment to reach a common goal. Many people tried to invent a way of flying and many of their inventions were pretty outrageous. But finally the Wright Brothers did it and in doing so have made traveling faster and in some cases cheaper. They also fulfilled the human dream of being able to fly. The US system gave them the opportunity to do that. Many great minds have immigrated to America for this opportunity including Albert Einstein, the composer Igor Stravinsky, and many others.
The governmental system created by the founding fathers is the best system in the world for political progress. All you hear on the news every week is how bad a job the government is doing on certain things. But compared to other places around the world our government does a really good job. You can not be thrown in jail for no reason as is sometimes the case in China and North Korea. The US government is the best in the world at meeting the largest number of the people’s interests. The people elect officials and can have influence through interest groups if they desire a change in the way government is affecting them. The government does not control the media in this country which is good because you don’t want the government to regulate unwanted information from reaching the public as was the case in the former Soviet Union. The media when used correctly can act as a check on the government. Through its many of acting in the interest of the people the US government is best in the world at promoting political progress.
The justice system in America also gets a lot of criticism from various sources. For example the McDonalds lady getting millions for spilling coffee on herself, OJ Simpson getting away with murder, and more recently Michael Jackson potentially getting away with child molestation. It’s true that people with money have a better shot at being acquitted compared to poor people which is a big problem. However, again look at us compared with the rest of the world. There is no such thing as a trial in certain countries and much less a fair trial in others. When it comes down to it the US is the best at promoting moral progress through its justice system.
Finally, and probably most important is that the systems mentioned above work to help progress but also the progress of progress. If there is a problem with the way the free enterprise system is working, for example the Enron and WorldCom scandals, we as a people have the opportunity to make changes to the systems to make sure that the problem won’t happen again. Essentially the systems not only promote progress of the people but also progress of the systems themselves.
While there are other nice places to live in the world, America is still the best. You as a person for the most part decide how you want to live. You can have as much or as little control of the world around you as you want. As we progress socially, morally, and politically more and more countries will adopt our model of progress and benefit from it. May God bless America!
Webster’s New World College Dictionary. Simon and Schuster Inc. 1997.
Contributed by: Radrik
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